As a supply chain owner or C-level executive, you struggle to reduce inventory imbalances. At the same time, you want to achieve ultimate visibility and transparency across all departments. Unfortunately, the supply chain generates too much data, complicated to store and analyze. But there is a solution.
Fortunately, there are many AI and machine learning applications in supply chain management. The latest annual MHI Industry report shows 60% of supply chain businesses will invest in the adoption of AI. Thus, in the future, there will be more companies that use AI in supply chains.
In a previous article, we talked about AI in the logistics and transportation business. Now, we will highlight AI applications in the supply chain. At the end of this article, you’ll find tips for AI implementation, understandable even for a non-tech person.
Let’s take a quick look at the benefits you will get after implementing artificial intelligence in your supply chain.
Benefits of Artificial Intelligence in supply chain management
Intelligent technologies improve supply chain management. AI-powered software can analyze large amounts of data, define trends at a granular level, and react immediately. The benefits of AI in the supply chain listed below show more reasons why AI adoption matters for your supply chain business.
Increased productivity is the main benefit of leveraging intelligent technologies. Over 60% of supply chain executives said AI could automate decision-making and improve supply chain efficiencies.
The immediate reaction to changes is the main difference between humans and AI. AI software recognizes patterns and considers potential areas for improvements.
Optimized warehouse operations are impossible without data analytics and machine learning. Smart algorithms can plan and predict product demand. Thus, you can assign vehicles and direct them to locations with the most considerable demand.
Reduced operating costs are another benefit of AI integration. This technology optimizes every minute and mile in the supply chain. For instance, AI helped United Parcel Service (UPS) to optimize routes beforehand and save $50m.
AI and ML in the supply chain have created new performance standards for supply chain effectiveness. They also help businesses to run automated operations, analyze data, and serve clients. If you want to modernize your supply chain with AI, it is high time to get some ideas on how you can do that.
AI and Machine Learning in Supply Chain: Best Applications
From quality control to warehouse management, AI is applicable at all stages of product distribution. Below, we gathered the best AI use cases in supply chain and related technologies.
Data-driven demand forecasting
Most businesses use supply chain planning (SCP) or supply chain management (SCM) systems to balance supply and demand. But only a few stakeholders know that AI provides you with data-driven demand predictions. Such predictions are especially relevant for fresh food providers. These products are easily damaged and perishable and have a short shelf life.
As a result, most of the food waste occurs at the end of the supply chain during product distribution and consumption. Roughly one-third of the food produced around the globe gets lost or wasted every year, according to this United Nations report. For food supply chain owners, it means that they lost a vast amount of money.
Luckily, demand prediction is one of the most popular uses of artificial intelligence in operations and supply chain planning. For this purpose, you can use ready-made platforms like Demand Guru, by LLamasoft. The platform is forecasting demand in the supply chain using machine learning algorithms and identifying demand patterns.
Apart from long-term predictions, Demand Guru predicts the everyday demand for particular products. Moreover, this software can recognize the causes of increased demand and even create simulations of such situations. As a result, you receive more precise predictions generated by machine learning algorithms.
No one wants to buy damaged products. Thus, most supply chains have manual quality inspections to find damage during transit. This is where computer vision technology, one of machine learning in supply chain use cases, comes in handy. Computer vision can identify images and particular objects. As an example, Facebook uses computer vision to find existing users on photos and tag them.
For digitizing quality control, consider Fujitsu Advanced Image Recognition (F|AIR). This platform is a perfect solution for visual product inspection and defect detection. Thanks to this intelligent algorithm, the platform is more precise in object detection than other machine vision software.
Once the platform identifies damaged goods, it will send you a PDF report, complete with defect images. F|AIR will help you to improve the consistency of quality inspection across your supply chain and reduce quality control costs up to 80%.
F|AIR works both on-premise and in the cloud to suit the existing supply chain ecosystem. You also can integrate F|AIR API into your system with help from a dedicated development team.
To use Artificial Intelligence in logistics and supply chain management, consider integrating automated robots. Such robots will streamline product picking, unloading pallets, and even packing items. Apart from saving operating costs, robots can provide you with data-based decision making.
Each day your warehouse produces a massive amount of data. This may include inventory stock levels, order numbers, and shipping details. To get the most from this data using data analytics, think about doctors with machine learning capabilities. Such robots will identify patterns, predict out-of-stock items, orders, and even returns.
Ocado Technology is the online grocery retailer that nailed automated warehouse management. Ocado does not own any brick and mortar stores and receives orders only from their online store.
To digitize its warehouse, Ocado developed most of its solutions with in-house development teams. Currently, the company’s main tech stack includes cloud computing, robotics, AI, and IoT. Ocado also put much effort into fraud detection using machine learning technologies. The company has built its custom route optimization platforms to always deliver fresh groceries.
Let’s see how Ocado’s automated warehouse management system works.
Ocado’s warehouse looks like a giant hive with a 3D grid structure inside where goods are stored.
Ocado’s central system receives information about the products required.
The system sends requests via 4G to robots that start collecting the required products from baskets.
Artificial Intelligence controls all robots via an air traffic control system, so they can collect products without colliding.
Once all products are collected, the order goes to pick stations, where robots or human employees assemble orders.
Currently, over 3500 robots operate in Ocado’s warehouse, which is 36 acres. Thanks to such automation, Ocado processes 220,000 orders a week.
Real-time cargo monitoring
All international supply chain owners want to increase transparency by tracking ocean freight in real-time—especially those who transport food and need to control the temperature in the transportation unit.
To receive real-time cargo monitoring, consider integrating Arviem. This is a cargo monitoring platform, available for web and mobile, that tracks your cargo in the air, on land, and at sea. Moreover, it tracks the location, condition, and temperature of cargo during the journey of your products. Another advantage of Arviem’s is the intelligent ETA calculation. This algorithm will inform you about possible delays so that you can take proactive action.
The Arviem system consists of two main components:
IoT devices that you attach to the cargo at the point of loading. These devices track humidity, temperature, light, and GPS location while the shipment is in transit. Then, IoT sensors send data to the analytics platform.
The analytics platform receives information from devices and provides you with a quick picture of the cargo in transit. You also receive an in-depth analysis and route visualization. In this way, you can uncover inefficiencies and logistics blind spots and improve them.
Now, let’s find out what you need to adopt AI and ML in the supply chain and launch your project.
Tips to integrate AI in logistics and supply chain with The APP Solutions
Let’s see how you can adopt AI and machine learning in your supply chain.
Tip #1 See the bigger picture
Our clients often quote us for AI algorithm development. But, most of them do not know exactly which problems they need to solve.
Before integrating Artificial Intelligence because it’s hype tech, take a look around. Identify the problems you need to solve or areas to improve. If you are in doubt, consider hiring Data scientists. They will gather your business data, analyze it, and advice areas to integrate AI.
Tip #2 Choose wisely
With a clear understanding of your problems, start searching AI developers. During the search, pay attention to the developer’s certifications and Clutch profile with reviews from previous clients. Remember to ask about their experience with ML platforms, such as TensorFlow, IBM, and others. You may also want to take a look at their ML-specific case studies.
Tip #3 Develop a proof of concept
Your ML developers need to determine the right data sources for your AI project. They also need to decide the data types to ensure the supply chain has enough information. Next, you and your team will start creating a project scope for proof of concept. In this way, your development team will concentrate on the most critical aspects of your supply chain. As a result, you will receive the right type of AI that drives meaningful outcomes and uncover a clear path for further improvements.
Why adopt AI and machine learning in supply chain management
The adoption of AI into the supply chain is the main priority for 55% of supply chain stakeholders. Such technology helps to increase product quality, improve transparency, and make your business more predictable. Thus, to keep up with the trends in your industry, you also need to integrate AI and machine learning into the retail supply chain.
We hope this article has inspired you to further modernize your supply chain. If you have any questions on AI and ML in the supply chain or have enough courage to develop such software from scratch, write to us, and we will help.
In order to bake a cake, you need to do more than just mix all the ingredients together from the recipe, but also follow the cooking instructions. Processes mean a lot, especially in software development, when there are risks such as falling behind deadlines or missing a bug in the code.
At the same time, managing development processes becomes harder when the entire team works remotely. In the office environment, you can assign tasks and give feedback just by going to your colleague’s desk. Managing a remote team requires more effort to complete the same functions.
However, remote work is here to stay. Since March, The APP Solutions team has been working from home. Even though we can visit our office, the majority of us prefer to work remotely. We have seized the opportunities in working remotely to improve our project management approaches and make some changes in day-to-day project management.
In this article, you will find the main challenges of remote project management, approaches to facing them, and our tips on how to manage a remote team.
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Challenges in managing remote projects
So, what discourages project managers from managing remote teams effectively? We can specify the following reasons:
Lost information. Missing important information often happens during the feedback sessions when the team shows the work results or task assignment results. When communicating via video conferencing, one can easily be distracted from the conversation. Thus, without writing down all the tasks and critical points in the form of a summary, all participants may quickly forget what they have discussed.
Unclear responsibilities. The development of an app or website requires at least five team members with different roles. However, these roles may be very similar in some cases. For example, a sales manager may duplicate reports to the client about the team’s progress, despite the project manager already sending it. Such situations not only cause misunderstanding but also waste the team’s time and effort.
Unrealistic expectations. Promising something, especially to the client, is a great responsibility. At the same time, low output and deliverables that do not meet expectations can become a big problem. The leading cause of unrealistic expectations is a lack of experience in implementing something and the inability to consider risks and strengths.
Poor communication. If you can’t communicate your idea, don’t expect great results. Even such a simple thing as giving feedback may be challenging while working remotely. Weak feedback also includes using abstract concepts, such as “this shade of gray makes me sad; try something more optimistic.” This information means nothing to the development team, rather, it only says that you don’t like the result and can’t suggest relevant improvements.
Now, let’s see how you can face all these challenges.
How to manage remote developers: best practices
Below we gather handy practices for facing challenges in managing projects remotely.
Document and share information
When we have an upcoming project and initiate the Inception phase, our project managers create a project charter. This document includes brief information about the project, such as the project’s business purpose, key stakeholders, key milestones, the budget, and other details.
Then, the project manager creates a separate feed in Jira, our task management software, and attaches related documents. In such a way, all team members can access it and learn about the overall project objectives and requirements.
To achieve more visibility about one’s role, a remote project manager creates a mind map with areas of responsibility and an overall project development process.
In this way, we avoid unnecessary and costly duplication of tasks and promote and build a collaborative atmosphere.
Establish performance metrics
Once each team member knows their responsibilities, it is time to establish performance metrics. We plan the performance metrics by breaking the project scope into features and schedule their implementation for a two-week timeframe, named the ‘iteration’.
Once the new iteration starts, the project manager and team communicate about current tasks, discuss possible obstacles, and agree on the iteration deliverables.
For effective management of remote teams, all team members and stakeholders must share honest, transparent, and timely feedback.
It is also a good practice to arrange a retrospective meeting where the team can share their insights and concerns.
For example, our team arranges retrospectives each month to voice our concerns and address them before they become an issue. Retrospectives also work great to receive insights on how to improve workflow and communication methods.
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Remote project management tools and communication software
For achieving effective project management for remote teams, we use the following software:
[Trello screen example]
Trello works best when the team needs to plan tasks at the beginning of each iteration. This tool allows for creating a task implementation pipeline. It usually includes three tables that define the task’s progress. They are “Backlog,” “In progress,” and “Done.” In the backlog, the project manager assigns tasks to different team departments, sets the project delivery date, and attaches relevant documents.
[Jira screen example]
Atlassian Jira is the project management software of choice for many development teams. We find it handy for assigning tasks, storing project-related documents, and tracking on-time delivery of assigned tasks.
[Workplace screen example]
We use Workplace as the primary communication tool among teams and across the company. In Workplace, we create separate groups for each project, invite team members, write weekly plans and daily updates, send links and documents.
4 Effective remote project management tips from The APP Solutions
Below, we share our tips on how to implement effective remote IT management.
Tip #1 Be where your customers are
As we said, we use the Workspace to communicate inside the team. However, for managing projects remotely, we also leverage other communication tools and messengers, familiar to our customers. For example, the majority of our clients from the U.S. prefer using Slack. This communication platform also allows exchanging messengers in real tiles, creating topic-specific groups, and sharing files and links.
At the same time, customers from Europe, mainly from Germany, more frequently use Telegram. The main reason for their choice is because Telegram is known for its high-level security.
Tip #2 Report daily and weekly
Daily team meetings are an integral part of Scrum, a project management methodology we apply. During the meeting, the development team talks about the tasks completed yearly, assignments they will finish today, and functions to implement tomorrow.
When we worked at the office, we ran regular team meetings and reported our progress to customers every week.
While working from home, we adopted effective daily remote team meetings. During such sessions, the team reports on small tasks to our customers each day. In such a way, our customers can be assured that project implementation is going as planned.
At the end of each week, we also send weekly reports to see a bigger picture of the development process and plan the project budget.
Tip #3 Improve transparency across PM team members
The project manager plays a vital role in the software development process. However, project managers can get sick, go on vacations, or join another team.
As a result, the new project manager needs to spend some time sorting out project details, reading the technical specifications, and communicating with the team.
To reduce the time of new project managers onboarding, we implemented our project management team’s daily video conferences.
During such conferences, PM team members share the development team’s progress, potential bottlenecks, new information, and feedback from clients. Thus, all project managers are informed about the progress status on all projects and can replace a colleague at any time.
Tip #4 Leverage existing technology expertise
Most software development companies from all over the world are working from home. As a result, business owners are no longer afraid to hire remote developers overseas. Although the quality of the work of developers from the U.S. and Ukraine is similar, hourly rates vary 3-4 times. Developers from the U.S. charge from $100 to $250 per hour, while the hourly rates of Ukrainian developers will cost you from $50 to $90.
In the past 4 months, we started to receive more project requests, and the number of customers who want to hire us for the development of a project’s technical documentation has also increased.
As a result, we have faced the need to perform more – create more technical project specifications, estimate more features, and suggest technical solutions while meeting deadlines.
Thanks to our core tech expertise, we can re-use existing project estimations and shorten the time required for a developer to estimate the app or website.
In such a way, we can dedicate more time to the projects’ business elements, like generating unique sales propositions (UCP) and conducting more in-depth market research.
How to manage a remote project effectively: the final word
Adapting to change is not always easy. However, changes, such as working remotely, can improve existing project management approaches and build streamlined communication across all your departments.
If you are looking for project management for remote teams, or need development to estimate your project’s budget, we are here to help.
There are several conversion types. For example, digital marketing conversions count how many people clicked on your online ads. There are also online store conversions. Such stats show how profitable your e-commerce website is.
Today, we will talk about this exact type of conversion, known as the eCommerce conversion rate. We will discuss both good and bad conversion rates for online stores, highlighting eCommerce conversions across different industries and devices. You will also find out the reasons why your conversion rate might be low and how to use tools for eCommerce conversion rate optimization.
After you apply our advice on eCommerce conversion rate optimization, your site will become easy to use for your customers and provide them with a better shopping experience.
What is the eCommerce conversion rate?
Conversion rate (CR) is one of those metrics online retailers should track regularly. The Ecommerce conversion rate tells how many online shop visitors turn into customers. In other words, the eCommerce conversion rate shows the percentage of visitors who actually buy at your e-commerce website. However, it is not so simple.
What is a good eCommerce conversion rate?
The conversion rate in eCommerce depends on many factors. Online stores vary by sector and sell different products. Thus, some of them have a higher CR due to increased product demand. For example, online stores that sell apparel have higher conversion rates than online stores that sell jewelry or beauty products.
To put the record straight, let’s find out how eCommerce conversion rates vary across different industries.
Average conversion rates for eCommerce sites by sectors
What is the typical eCommerce conversion rate? Before calculating the conversion rate of your eCommerce website, make sure to take a look at sectors with a higher and lower online conversion rate.
So what online shoppers purchase more often?
Statistics from Adobe Digital Index say that the higher conversion rates are in such sectors as gifts, pharmacies, apparel, footwear, and sports. All these industries have a 3% conversion rate in 2020.
The same report shows that jewelry and cosmetics, home furnishing and decor, automobile, DIY, and tools have a conversion rate below 3%.
So, what is a good conversion rate for an eCommerce store? The answer depends on your sector and the type of goods you are selling. It could be anything between 1-3%.
However, your conversion rate also depends on the traffic source, the buyer’s journey stage, and device type. Let’s take a closer look at each factor and see the bigger picture.
Ecommerce Conversion Rate by Source
The best performing traffic sources that bring the most eCommerce conversions are:
Do not expect a high conversion rate from traffic that comes from social media, Facebook, and Google Adwords. All these traffic sources can only bring between 3.1% to 1.7% of the total amount of conversions.
Why? People who saw your Google ad know nothing about your business and the products you sell. Thus, they are less likely to purchase than customers who regularly receive updates from you via email.
These two types of people are at different buyer journey stages and have different motivations to buy something.
Let’s find out more about the stages of the buyer’s journey and how they differ from each other.
Ecommerce Conversion Rate and buyer’s journey stages
Once the buyer sees your advertisement on the Internet, one still has little to no motivation to buy at your e-commerce website. To become a paying customer, one needs to go through awareness, consideration, and decision stages.
At the awareness stage, a buyer learns about the products and services you sell
At the consideration stage, one evaluates products or services you offer
At the decision stage, a buyer chooses your online business among competitors
In a nutshell, when you know about the buyer’s journey stages, you can predict where most of your conversion came from and invest in the most performing channel.
But how do devices impact eCommerce conversions?
Ecommerce conversion rate by device
Online shoppers visit your eCommerce website using different devices. You need to know which device results in a higher conversion rate. In this way, you can concentrate your efforts on the type of device that drives conversions.
The main devices on which shoppers access e-commerce sites are desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
While most potential customers may discover your products using mobile devices, they are more likely to purchase a desktop. The mobile eCommerce conversion rate is at 1.82%, the desktop conversion rate is twice as high (3.90%), followed by tablets (3.49%).
Now that you know what eCommerce conversions are and what they consist of, let’s move further and learn how you can calculate your eCommerce conversions.
How to measure conversion rates in e-commerce?
To see your e-commerce conversion rates, you need to divide the number of site visitors by the number of orders you received during a particular period. You can calculate the eCommerce conversion rate each month, season, and even year.
Let’s imagine your eCommerce website had 1,000 visitors in the last month. During the same period, you received 30 orders. Thus, your conversion rate is 30 divide by 1000 which will be 3.0%
Where can you access eCommerce conversions?
You can see your e-commerce conversion rate in web analytics. Open your Google Analytics profile. Next, go to Conversions, and click on the Goals report. Here, you can see each goal’s conversion rate, including Add to cart or Completed purchase. In this section, you can add alternative metrics to narrow down your results.
Open the Analytics section in your Shopify Admin panel and visit Dashboards. Here you will find the Online Store Conversion Rate widget and your sales funnel divided into different stages.
The average conversion rate for a Shopify store was 1.5% in 2019. In May 2020, the average Shopify conversion rate was a little higher at 1.6%.
But what to do if your conversion rate is 1% or even lower? First of all, you need to find out the reason for such a low conversion rate. Then, you need to use eCommerce conversion rate optimization tactics.
While most reasons vary depending on the website, sector, and products, there are typical reasons for low eCommerce conversion rates most retailers ignore. What are they? Let’s find it out.
Reasons for a low conversion rate
Now we are going to analyze the typical reasons why your e-commerce website doesn’t convert visitors. For this purpose, let’s imagine an average shopper, for example, me. I like buying things on the Internet. As a shopper, I want a streamlined buyer’s journey. For me, this will mean I can find a product and checkout in 10-15 minutes.
However, only a few sites can offer such a convenient user experience. It is no surprise that most stores have very low conversion rates and require eCommerce conversion optimization.
So, what keeps people away from buying at your e-commerce website? The Baymard Institute study report says that low conversion rates are caused by the following reasons:
Research suggests that 22% of eCommerce sites do not have an intermediate Category Page at the top of their catalog hierarchy. For this reason, site visitors can’t properly navigate the eCommerce product catalog.
As a customer, I like to find products within just a few seconds, especially if I know what I’m looking for. However, if the shop I visit has poor navigation, unclear product categories, and no keyword search, I wouldn’t give such a website a second look, but open another shop in the next tab. Most shoppers will do the same since it is easier to deal with eCommerce websites that respect your time.
Additional shipping costs
Around 61% of shoppers abandon shopping carts because of high or unexpected shipping costs.
When I visit an eCommerce site to purchase something, I expect to spend a particular sum of money. I add products to a shopping cart with a total order sum in mind. But at the checkout page, when I see additional costs charged for shipping and handling, I will interrupt the checkout process because I didn’t expect to pay additional costs.
As a result, customers abandon carts and never return to finish the checkout. That is the way buyer psychology works. We get used to the fact that eCommerce retailers offer free shipping. Thus, shipping costs, even around 5-10 dollars, negatively impact your decision to make a purchase.
Forced customer account creation
The absence of guest checkout makes 34% of e-commerce website visitors abandon their carts.
Not all customers are ready to create a customer account, especially when they shop at your site for the first time. As an online shopper, I respect my time. Besides this, I get used to a streamlined and straightforward buying process.
Thus, if your potential customer already added come products to their cart, but need to create a customer account to place an order, they will look for a more straightforward option at your competitor’s store.
Complicated checkout process
According to Baymard’s Checkout research study, checkout issues are caused by the following reasons:
Long and complicated checkout caused 21% of US online shoppers to abandon their orders.
The average US checkout flow consists of 23.48 form elements and 14,88 form fields, negatively affecting the checkout process.
When I add products to the shopping cart and even agree to pay extra costs for shipping and handling, it does not mean I will make a purchase. Once I begin the checkout process and see many fields to fill in during a complicated checkout, I will interrupt it. Spending some time just filling all these fields simply annoys me as a customer.
Thus, if your eCommerce website has a long and complicated checkout, your potential buyers leave your eCommerce website, negatively impacting your conversion rate.
Shopping cart abandonment
Shopping cart abandonment could be a result of both extra shipping costs and long checkout.
But, there is a third option.
If the website I visit does not have a wishlist on the product page, I will add products I like to the shopping cart.
In such a way, I will not lose these items. When I am ready to make a purchase, I visit this site once again to complete the checkout. The funny thing is that I’m not the only one who does this.
58.6% of US shoppers also have abandoned their shopping carts because they were just browsing and were not ready to buy something.
Unfortunately, most customers forget about products in their abandoned shopping carts. However, even such behavior has its approach.
We just discovered the main issues that cause a low conversion rate for eCommerce. But how can you increase conversions?
Ecommerce conversion rate optimization strategies to try
What methods and tools do you need to apply for eCommerce conversion rate optimization? We suggest the following options as the most effective for conversion optimization.
Use product search optimization
To increase eCommerce conversion rates and help your website visitors find products in several seconds, you have several optimization options to choose from:
Search bar. The search bar should attract customers’ attention to use it and find products more effectively. Thus, we recommend placing it in the top menu. The search box should also provide auto-complete versions for the most popular products and categories. Thus, you eliminate situations where a customer can’t find a product because of misspelled words and, consequently, increase sales.
Search algorithm. To achieve better e-commerce optimization, empower on-site search with Natural Language Processing technology. NLP helps the eCommerce search to understand more complex search queries that include the type of product and its price, color, and size. For example, the user could type “red cocktail dress size 9 under 200 dollars” to the NLP interface and receive relevant information.
To avoid your customers’ disappointment with additional shipping costs, you have two optimization options to apply:
Offer your online shop visitors a free shipping option. This type of optimization mainly works for new customers. You can also offer a free shipping option for shoppers whose total order value is more than a predefined sum. You can also add shipping costs to the product cost and say that such products are shipped for free.
Shipping costs calculator
Another eCommerce optimization option is to show shipping costs on the product page. For this purpose, you can integrate a shipping cost calculator. This type of shipping cost optimization automatically calculates shipping prices and shows shopping costs near the total order sum. Such optimization plugins calculate the shipping costs based on shipping destination, product weight or dimensions, cart total, etc.
You can drive conversion by eliminating the need for shoppers to create a customer account. This type of e-commerce optimization is attractive for first-time customers and those who don’t feel comfortable giving you their contact details, such as an email address. Some eCommerce platforms allow setting guest checkout in the Admin panel, while others require additional plugins.
As a Shopify website owner, you can make customer accounts optional in the admin panel. Go to Settings > Checkout. Then, in the Customer accounts section, choose Accounts are optional. Next, click the Save button to confirm your new account settings. Now, your new customers can checkout without the mandatory requirement to create an account.
Magento 2 users can also disable and allow guest checkout. Go to the admin panel and find the Stores section on the sidebar. Then, in the Configuration section, select the Sales section and then go to checkout and click Checkout Options.
Here, untick the Use system value checkbox, select the store view where the configuration applies and click Ok to continue. Now, choose “Yes” in the Allow guest checkout field and make sure you press Save Config.
This platform does not allow enabling or disabling customers’ accounts. Thus, you need to use the Checkout Manager plugin. With Checkout Manager, you can customize your checkout process by modifying conditional checkout fields and removing the order notes in the checkout form, including a custom message before or after the checkout form.
To integrate this plugin to your WooCommerce store, buy one site license for $20. Checkout Manager also includes other tiers for agencies ($40 one-time payment – 5 site activation) and developers ($80 one-time fee, unlimited site licenses).
Use checkout optimization
Most eCommerce platforms do not offer guest checkout by default. Thus, to improve the user experience at your website, allow visitors to check out in one step using additional plugins. Here are our favorite one-step checkout optimization addons for the most popular eCommerce platforms.
One Page Checkout for WooCommerce
One Page Checkout for Woocommerce stores improves user experience with shopping cart optimization and checkout on one page. This CRO e-commerce plugin allows visitors to change the product quantity and delete products from their shopping cart. To start using this plugin, you need to pay a $79.00 annual fee.
One‑Click Checkout for Shopify
One-Click Checkout for Shopify platform users replaces the checkout page with a checkout pop-up. This optimization addon integrates Add to cart and Checkout buttons to all product pages.
Each time shoppers add items to their carts, this plugin shows a cart summary such as other products added, order subtotal, and offers a quick checkout.
At the checkout page, shoppers see a simple checkout form with 8 fields. You can customize the checkout pop-up and Buy Now button design and set your own 1-click ordering conditions for this app in the Admin panel.
One-Click Checkout offers a free plan with basic features. A Basic plan with a $9.95 monthly fee that includes checkout flow management, and a Priority Support plan for $18.95. At this price, you will receive a dedicated manager, a consultant that will help you to install the app, and priority in the live support queue.
OneStepCheckout for Magento 2
OneStepCheckout is one of the most popular checkout optimization plugins for Magento 2 sites with over 20,000 merchants. You can shape the checkout that you want with minimal development skills and resources.
This optimization addon turns the standard Magento checkout into a single page with a responsive design for tablets and mobile devices. With OneStepCheckout, you can disable unnecessary fields like fax, company, telephone, region, set a default shipping and payment method, auto-update available shipping rates, and integrate country auto-fill with GeoIP localization.
OneStepCheckout price starts from $570, but it is calculated individually, depending on your Magento version’s need for online support, and installation service.
Integrate wishlists and apply mail marketing
To increase the conversion rate for your eCommerce website, you may try both wishlist and mailing because they work great in combination. For example, if a visitor bookmarked an item to their wishlist, you know that they are intending to buy it, but not ready to make a purchase right now.
To motivate hesitant customers, you can send an email and remind them about products on their customer wish list or inform them about a special offer with their order. The most popular ways of stimulating hesitant customers, or those who abandon their shopping carts, are contextual emails with such titles as ‘Low in stock’ and ‘Price dropped.’ Once sent, such emails bring shoppers back to your site.
To add a wishlist you can find the required addon at your platform’s marketplace. But to find reliable email marketing software requires more time and resources.
Now, let’s discover the most popular mail marketing services such as Mailchimp, Dotmailer, and Bronto.
Mailchimp supports integration with all eCommerce platforms and point-of-sale systems. This smart CRM automatically organizes all your customers into segments using the history or their previous purchases. Besides this, Mailchimp segments users by their engagement level and likelihood to purchase. In this way, you can better understand a shopper’s behavior and activity across different channels in order to launch effective targeted email campaigns.
You can get the Mailchimp Starting plan for a $9.99 monthly fee. It includes pre-built templates for email marketing, A/B mails testing, and 24/7 support.
If you need a more advanced option, try Growing ties for $14.99 per month. You receive retargeting ads, advanced audience insights, and more.
If your customer base significantly increases, you might need such features as advanced user segmentation, multivariate testing, etc. You can find everything a big eCommerce store needs with the Premium tier for $299.00 per month.
Dotmailer is available for Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento 2 integrations. Dotmailer goes far beyond just mailing software. Apart from sending emails, you can personalize your marketing messages across SMS, push notifications, live chat, and social ads.
To return browsing customers to their shopping carts and wishlists, you can apply retargeting ads via Google Ads, plus Facebook and Instagram.
Dotmailer’s Accelerate basic plan includes product recommendations, marketing landing pages builder, and web behavior tracking. In more advanced tiers, you can find contact scoring, omnichannel marketing, and social media retargeting.
The platform calculates prices individually, depending on your business needs.
Bronto is a mail marketing automation platform developed by Oracle. The platform includes several products tailored to the different needs of eCommerce business owners. One of Bronto’s products is Abandon Shopping Cart, a software that automatically sends personalized emails with inserted cart information into messages.
Bronto also tracks detailed cart activity and gathers insights such as recoverable carts and revenue. To make customers return to their carts and improve your conversion rate, you just need to set rules on the messaging frequency and delivery times based on the customer’s checkout progress and shopping cart items.
To get a personalized pricing plan after a demonstration session, provide info about your eCommerce site.
How to increase eCommerce conversion rate: the final word
Ecommerce conversion rates vary by sector and device. The average conversion rate for most eCommerce sites is between 1,5-3%. The main reasons for a low conversion rate lie in the poor customer journey at your store.
At the same time, the conversion rate optimization techniques in this article will help you to improve your conversion, make your business more profitable, and get more orders.
When choosing a development team for your project, what should you pay attention to?
Portfolio? Tech Stack? Domain expertise? All of these answers are correct. But more importantly, the development team should have documented project setup processes and development to ensure transparency for stakeholders.
Knowing the project lifecycle, core deliverables, and critical roles on the project, allow you as a decision-maker to be on the same page with the development team, thus, create more realistic expectations and the final result.
This article explains the project setup and management processes at The APP Solutions in detail and the key roles and responsibilities of each party during the project life cycle. We also list key deliverables our clients receive at each stage of project development.
Software development project management at The APP Solutions
We apply SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle ) as our methodology of choice for the projects we develop from scratch and existing projects requiring features modernization, software update, and code refactoring.
The SDLC refers to a methodology with clearly defined processes for the development team.
The development team goes through the following steps of the project lifecycle:
Software Development Life Cycle from a stakeholder’s perspective includes the following phases:
Project Development and Quality Assurance
Final Project Demonstration Session
Each of these phases requires the cooperation of stakeholders with different team members. Let’s take a look at each stage of software development at The APP Solutions in more detail.
Phase 1. Engagement
The engagement phase is the first step toward project development. It takes four weeks for our development team to determine user roles, ways users interact with the application (user stories), and project usage scenarios.
Each week of the engagement phase has its goals and deliverables:
Week 1. Understanding
We suggest relevant technologies, dig deeper into your business and highlight the main business challenges you want to overcome with the project.
We achieve these goals by:
Defining your business goals
Discussing business needs
Checking out the current product infrastructure
Running requirement elicitation session
Limiting potential opportunities for further cooperation
Week 2. Definition
We shape the project vision and create a list of features for the first project version with basic features, i.e., the project’s MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and features for a fully-fledged product’s version.
During the second week of the engagement phase, The APP Solutions developers are dedicated to
Setting up scope boundaries
Running scope prioritization
Defining MVP scope
Creating Architecture Vision
Week 3. Portrayal
We devote the third week of the engagement phase to gathering and writing project requirements, functional, non-functional, and transactional.
We ensure that technical project requirements are written down from a Solution-perspective, i.e., are aligned with business needs.
To achieve this goal, software test engineers view the requirements at early stages and apply a “Requirement Checklist” that helps determine whether the requirements are complete, accurate, verifiable, and consistent.
The tasks for the third week include:
Running technical assessment session
Organizing requirements elicitation session
Reweaving the project’s visual style
Week 4. Result
We develop a realistic Product Roadmap that supports your Commercial Roadmap.
We also manage the technical aspects of a project to ensure that they’re in line with the company’s growth targets.
During the last week of the engagement phase, we are busy with:
Gathering the Project Scope for the release 0.1
Writing a Resource Plan for the Scope for release 0.1
Completing Requirements description
Main deliverables of the Inception Phase
After a four-week-period, our team comes up with the following deliverables of the engagement phase:
Then, we move to the next phase of the project development life cycle named the project initiation phase.
Phase 2. Project Initiation
Before developers start writing code for your project, the team runs a quick project setup phase to gather all the necessary documentation, including the cooperation agreement, project briefs, specifications, prototypes, etc.
The project initiation phase also ensures that all team members are aware of the project goals, and you, as a stakeholder, are aware of the communication plan schedule.
The main deliverables of the project initiation phase are:
A communication plan is a document that specifies all the reports our team makes during the project development phase.
To create the Communication Plan, the Business Development Manager invites you and the Project Manager to a meeting during which you discuss further cooperation and critical project milestones.
The Communication plan covers the schedule of:
Daily Scrum meetings. Their purpose is to synchronize the Project Manager with the team each day about the progress/blockers/plan for the next day.
Weekly planning meetings. Once a week, the Project Manager meets the development team to prioritize tasks for the next week and improve the log review. The Project Manager writes down the incoming information from the team meeting notes to ensure important details won’t be lost.
Financial reports. The Project Manager creates financial statements in PDF with a list of all the hours spent and task breakdown to the customer to ensure transparency about the monthly expenses and time spent. The customer receives the Financial report on the first day of the month.
Monthly reports. The Project Manager overviews the created tasks based on requests and produces a monthly report with incoming requests from the client and requests we’ve fulfilled.
Delivery meetings. The Delivery Director and Customer discuss the processes on a higher level and write down the outcomes from meeting notes.
After all preparations, the development team runs a kickoff meeting with you to introduce the development team members and their roles.
The team composition and development depend on the project’s scope. An average development team composition includes the Project Manager, the Product Owner, the Technical Lead, the Quality Assurance Manager, and System Administrator.
After the kickoff meeting, the team gets ready for the project development phase:
The Project Manager and the business analyst create a project backlog with the tasks.
The Project Manager and the Product Owner prioritize tasks in the backlog.
The Project Manager, the Product Owner, and the rest of the development team estimate the first sprint, i.e., the amount of time they need to implement the required functionality.
The Technical Lead creates the overall project architecture.
The Quality Assurance manager creates a checklist for the project functionality one will use to ensure that the project’s functions work as they should
The System Administrator creates the GitLab CI/CD repository where the team will deploy and store different versions of the project’s code.
The System Administrator sets up the Development and the Stage environments. The Development environment is the environment for coding. The Stage (staging or pre-production) environment is the environment for testing that resembles a Production environment.
Phase 3. Project Development and QA
For most projects, we apply the scrum project development framework. This means that the scope of the project is broken down into 2-3 week sprints. At the end of the sprint, the team runs a demo of new functionality to stakeholders and releases the new functionality to the live environment.
Each new sprint begins with sprint planning. At the beginning of the sprint, the development team plans and determines what scope will be delivered.
If the team considers that they can’t deliver the expected result, we find extra developers that augment the team.
At this phase, the Project Manager and the development team
Define a person responsible for technical leadership on the project, i.e., the tech lead
Implement development guidelines (design pattern, scalability, maintainability, test coverage, code review, etc.)
Definition of Done
The definition of done is an essential document for developers, QA managers, and project stakeholders. Definition of done is a list of requirements determining one or another feature is performed as it should, ready for deployment to a live environment, and enlightened with the tech specification.
The development team determines the definition of done for each function of the project during spring planning:
The developer estimates the required time to complete a particular task
The Project Manager adds the user stories and the use case to the description of the task
The developer and Project Manager add conditions the task requires to perform correctly in the definition of done
Once the team defines the project scope for the new sprint, developers begin to code project functionality. The quality assurance team tests each task right after the developer finishes coding it.
When the team has a few days before the sprint ends, the tech lead of the project dedicates a stable branch for a QA manager for project testing:
QA managers run regression tests to find bugs and errors
Developers fix errors and do code refactoring
The team releases new functions and run a demo session with stakeholders and gathers their feedback
The team share their challenges during the sprint, potential bottlenecks for the new spring during sprint retrospective, and create the scope for the project improvement process in the case of stakeholders not being satisfied with the project demo
Project Improvement is the scope of work developers must do so the project’s functions meet the definition of done:
The Project Manager establishes the improvement backlog and renews it by the end of an iteration
The Project Manager involves the stakeholders in generating the project improvement ideas and fixes them in the improvement backlog
Before releasing the new project’s code, developers create a project repository backup. This procedure is necessary because new functions may not be compatible with tasks in the old project’s code.
Moreover, backups help us compare a previously good state of the project with the project’s current state. Finally, backups prevent data loss by ensuring that critical infrastructure wasn’t decoupled from Github by a third party that wants the breach to spread.
The team creates a backup of GitHub repositories with critical project assets, including:
Infrastructure and configuration
Then, QA managers test each project backup.
Iteration by iteration, The APP Solutions team of developers does spring planning, coding, bug fixing, making backups, and testing until the final project demo.
Phase 4. Final Demonstration
The final demonstration session of the project is a meeting of the development team and you as a project stakeholder before the project’s release.
During the final demonstration sessions, the development team shows the project functionality written in the project technical documentation to you and other stakeholders.
After the final demonstration session, you and other stakeholders can test the product on your own in the test environment before developers upload the project to your server.
During the next two weeks, The APP Solutions team provides free technical support to fix issues that are not aligned with technical requirements to the system. After the end of the two weeks, the APP Solutions Team and you can sign a Technical Support Agreement to continue project improvement.
Phase 5. Technical support
Technical support is necessary for all new projects to maintain a system that can perform differently in a live environment rather than in a test environment.
Technical support is also essential for ensuring the system’s stability since unexpected high traffic loads can increase project downtime and cause other technical issues.
Tech Support Team
The typical support team includes:
The DevOps engineer maintains network health and fixes errors on the server
The support manager (or a feedback operator) gathers user requests (briefing, receiving complaints, processing applications and proposals)
The support developer makes any urgent changes to the project to ensure streamlined fixing of critical issues, bypassing the project improvement backlog
Technical Support on 3 Levels
At The APP Solutions, we have three different technical support levels that vary in respect of the project’s complexity, stakeholder’s needs, and the client’s business maturity:
Level 1. Service desk
Under the service desk tier, The APP Solutions team ensures:
Processing of incidents and requests
Dealing with common, typical, and previously documented issues
Level 2. Issues/problem management
The second level of technical support empowers developers with more responsibilities:
Resolving of non-standard issues
Analyzing root causes
Providing workarounds and quick fixes to minimize business interruptions
Resolving high severity and urgent incidents
Level 3. Product development
Under the third level of technical support, The APP Solutions provide a dedicated team that deals with
Developing permanent solutions to issues from rare curing
Releasing and deploying management to align system changes with changing business needs
Models of cooperation
The model of cooperation determines the number of responsibilities a development team faces when building a project. There are three fundamental models of cooperation – Managed Services, the Dedicated team, and the Extended team. Let’s explain them one by one.
Managed Services is a cooperation model under which The APP Solutions team manages all product development processes while you get the freedom and time to develop your business. This engagement model works best to build complex products, such as web or mobile applications from scratch and provides technical support services.
The composition of a team that works under this model may include application developers and quality assurance specialists and a product manager, UI/UX Designer, Business or System Analyst, and other team members depending on your project’s needs.
The dedicated team model means the development team shares responsibilities with you. You can work under this model for outsourcing business functions such as development and quality assurance to empower your existing development team with our narrowed domain specialists.
The team composition of the dedicated team model includes developers, quality assurance managers, and a dedicated Project Manager who is taking care of the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) Methodology and process. The Project Manager also facilitates the integration of the dedicated team with other teams on your side and third parties.
The extended team is a cooperation model under which you as a client manage all the project development processes. The extended team model is popular among businesses that want to extend existing software development teams with extra professionals while avoiding finding in-house candidates and hiring costs.
To make the extended team model work, you need to have established project management processes. Our Extended Team will inherit your existing structure and report directly to you or your project manager.
Project Management for Software Development: The APP Solutions Tips
The APP Solutions team have six central values that differentiate us from other software development companies:
Happiness as KPI. We focus on things that matter. We know how to take care of your business’s problems and turn them into solutions.
Result-Oriented. We value your business the most, and we are willing to help you with directions that yield great value where time is everything and doubts are detrimental.
Narrow Expertise. We understand the balance between the industry’s best practices and adjusting to opportunities when they come knocking on the door.
Verified Seniority. We manage the qualification of each team member, applying the Competence matrix, and create a Personal Development Plan to grow in-house professionals.
Standardized Onboarding. We apply an Onboarding Plan to shorten the project onboarding process, so new team members are integrated into the project quickly and efficiently.
Project Health Check. We ensure that the project goes right by applying Project Health Check best practices to compare project characteristics and qualities with industry standards.
The APP Solutions team is here to help you develop your new project, improve your old system, augment your existing development team, and provide technical support. You can write down your request to the contact form to get in touch with the team.
The constant turnaround of information in the age of big data and cloud computing has led to a significant increase in software vulnerability.
In the past couple of years, the number of data breaches and data loss incidents has increased exponentially. According to the Bleeping Computer report, there were over 12 thousand confirmed data breaches in 2018, a staggering 424% increase from 2017.
Most of the breaches involved exposure of user’s personal data and disclosure of business-related documents.
Data breaches and data loss are natural things when you have many people working with information in numerous data analytics, data mining, machine learning operations, accounting, customer support, etc. The tool that avoids this from happening is data loss prevention software.
In this article, we will explain what is data loss prevention, and how to prevent data leakage.
What is Data Loss Prevention (DLP)?
Definition of Data Loss Prevention (aka DLP) is a set of policies and software applications. Its goal is to monitor the information in the system and prevent the possibility of losing or breaching data for various reasons.
Image source: ShiftLeft Blog
There are three types of data that require special handling:
Intellectual Property – source code, design documents, process documentation;
Corporate Data – legal and financial documents, strategic planning documents, employee information
Customer Data – personal data like name, address, phone number, location, preferences, social security numbers, credit cards, medical records, financial statements, and so on.
Overall, the main focus of DLP (data loss prevention) software is:
Keeping data safe in use, in motion, and at rest
Monitoring endpoint data movement
Vulnerability prevention, i.e., the disclosure of sensitive information (either intentionally or by accident)
Besides, data leakage prevention software helps to identify the source of the insider’s leak in the event of the data breach.
Providingsecurity measures and fixing weak points in the data processing pipeline – i.e., providing encryption for sensitive data and performing routine backups.
How does Data Loss Prevention software work?
A DLP solution is all about identifying sensitive data, managing its access, and taking measures in keeping it safe.
Data leak prevention revolves around monitoring and analysis tools:
determine whether a particular data operation is legitimate or threatening to the company’s assets;
take proper measures to keep data secure.
Data loss protection operation revolves around two concepts:
Content awareness – the information and its role in business operation;
Contextual analysis – i.e., the medium of the content and its internal presentation coupled with the intentions of using data;
Action-wise, data loss prevention practices revolve around the following methodologies:
Encryption – used for basic safeguarding of sensitive data in storage and transit;
Cryptographic hashing – used for anonymization of personally identifiable data;
Data fingerprinting to identify and track data in the system (usually for reading, hashing, and storing activities);
Routine backups of information – used to keep versions of sensitive data intact, especially in cases of unauthorized or accidental changes, movement, or erasure.
Data leak protection software’s modus operandi is broken down into four key components:
Above every type of data-related operation stands the system’s policy. It defines what kind of data is sensitive and what users can do with it. Most importantly, the policy describes the course of action regarding data loss protection (for example, encrypting sensitive data or sending a notification to admin).
The management component is an interface for the system’s policy. It is an initial set of regulations to keep things in check. It includes monitoring:
what data is currently used and its state of access;
who is using which information;
where the data is going in the process.
The identification component uses the system’s policy to find sensitive data and assess its state in the system. It is also used to identify the user and his level of access.
The protection component is the one that takes action. It is a set of DLP tools designed to safeguard sensitive information from unauthorized access and prevents its loss via the creation of backups. Usually, it is either reporting on something or providing different levels of access and encryption to the sensitive data.
Types of Data Loss Prevention software
There are three major types of Data Loss Prevention software. It is important to note that these DLP tools are used interchangeably for various purposes.
Image source: phoenixNAP
Network DLP – the type of DLP software where the solution integrates with all of the data points of the Network. This type of DLP is commonly used in corporate networks as a precautionary measure, due to the high volume of various data operations.
Network DLP monitors the state of data in the Network and keeps an extensive log on its movement and transformations. In a way, it is a kind of fail-safe option that avoids both routine chances of data loss and diligent malice.
Storage DLP – this type of data loss prevention program is for data lakes on cloud storage. Its primary focus is on keeping the confidentiality and safety of data in the data warehouse.
The process includes monitoring the sensitive data in the storage and managing its access configuration accordingly. In a way, it is a kind of surveillance service with an alarm.
Endpoint DLP – this type of DLP software monitors data sharing from point to point i.e., device, storage, or account. For example, you are sharing a market research report with a business analyst. This action is documented in the system’s log.
For example, if you share this document with somebody outside the system, it is automatically blocked, and you need to enable its access outside manually.
In addition to sharing, endpoint DLP also keeps an eye on clipboards and even physical devices. While physical storage is not as popular now – it is still used here and there. However, physical devices can break, and this may lead to data loss.
Endpoint DLP is similar to Network DLP. It monitors where the data goes and what happens to it, but unlike Network DLP, it is workstation-based. Thus, it handles only one source of data operations.
3 reasons to use Data Loss Prevention products
The vulnerability of data on cloud storage is a fact of life, and you have to deal with it. Many unfortunate things can happen to it without proper DLP security. For example:
Unauthorized access data breach;
Data Loss – i.e., irreversible change, movement or erasure of sensitive information;
Storage misconfiguration – exposure of confidential data on the outside.
(Just in case, we have an entire article dedicated to that).
With the number of data breaches growing exponentially with each year (by 2021, total damages are estimated to be up to $6 trillion) – it is reasonable to be cautious.
There are three main reasons why the implementation of DLP solutions is critical for moving forward and expanding the business operation.
Different government standards and regulations broadly cover the requirements for the safety and confidentiality of sensitive data regarding users and business processes (to name a few – GDPR, HIPAA, SOX, PCI DSS).
In one way or another, they regulate the treatment of personally identifiable and other types of sensitive data.
Implementation of a data loss prevention policy is one of the critical steps for compliance. In addition, the regulations map out the extent of control you have over data and give direction for more efficient data management.
Disclosure or loss of confidential data leads to lawsuits, reputation and credibility damages, and, ultimately, loss of revenue.
2. Better treatment of the company’s assets
A company’s assets what keep the engine rolling. Such valuable data requires strict monitoring of who is using and why. A data loss prevention policy covers the treatment of information such as:
strategic proprietary information;
customer lists and personally identifiable data;
The loss or breach of this data can cause a lot of problems for the company. Just ask Facebook.
DLP security policy clearly states types of access for sensitive data and describes courses of action, in any case.
3. Data visibility
The foundation of an effective data loss prevention policy is in understanding what kind of sensitive data is in the system, its location, and who is using it for what purposes.
This process involves constant asset audits, which gives a better grasp of your data.
How to create a successful DLP policy: a six-stage guide
1. Identify which data requires protection;
Evaluate possible risk factors (for example, the risk of a breach through email communication or exploits in the API framework);
Assess the vulnerability of different assets (for example, customer lists, legal documents, marketing analytics, and so on).
Select a priority scale for the protection of different types of data – which types represent what risk to the business operation. For example:
The app user database is an operational asset always in use, and it requires encryption both in transit and storage.
The competitor’s research data requires specified access and storage encryption.
2. The documentation of the DLP policy should be as thorough as possible. Everything needs to be written down to keep everybody on the same page. Being thorough provides full clarity of the proceedings and enables full compliance with standards.
Enforce a Data Loss Prevention policy at the organizational level.
Keep stakeholders and users aware of DLP policy and its importance.
3. Optimize data management and identify what type of data is unnecessary for business operation. If this type of data is not needed, then it should be removed, and thus, the breach or loss is impossible.
4. Establish transparent metrics (more on that later). Things which can measure the effectiveness of a DLP security policy:
Percentage of false positives during monitoring;
The number of security incidents;
Response time to an emergency.
5. Describe the scope of access to each type of user in the system (heads of departments get more access than junior specialists).
6. Automate the procedure with specialized software. The more workflow is automated, the easier it is to control.
DLP tools like McAfee DLP use machine learning anomaly detection and behavioral analytics to maintain the precision of DLP management.
Each user group has its own set of behavioral patterns. This layout allows to quickly identify the intent of the particular data operation and neutralize suspicious activity without sustaining any damage.
Image source: netskope
6 Metrics to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Data Loss Prevention Practices
Data Loss Prevention is a complex operation with many moving parts. Once implemented, it needs constant optimization and enhancement in order to serve its purpose well.
The best way of keeping data loss prevention tools in shape is to implement tangible metrics of their effectiveness.
Let’s look at them more closely.
1. Data classification success rate
The first step in implementing a Data Loss Prevention solution is data classification. This process identifies and differentiates types of sensitive information and describes its context. It is the backbone of every DLP tool.
Data classification is often performed in a semi-automated mode when the basic groundwork is done by the algorithm and then validated by the operator. The percentage of erroneous classifications can show how much of the sensitive information is left behind by the monitoring tool.
2. Percentage of policy exceptions
A System Data Loss Prevention policy contains a list of the dos and don’ts regarding the use of data throughout the company. It also includes certain types of exceptions from the rules. It can create one-off permission for a specific employee (for example, marketing getting access to project documentation to prepare a case study) or providing wider access to a third party via API (like Facebook for vendors or advertisers).
Monitoring the number of exceptions gives you an understanding of how much of the DLP security policy is really used. It is a good way of optimizing the weak points.
3. Percentage of false positives
Each monitoring system gets its own share of false positives and false negatives. The root of this issue is in the Data Loss Prevention monitoring routines. Some things are less defined or unmentioned, and this causes all sorts of false alarms.
The percentage of such events compared with the number of real alerts is a good measure for the effectiveness of the DLP tool. Helps to identify real data issues.
4. Percentage of fingerprinted databases
Digital fingerprinting is a method of data leakage prevention used to keep an eye on who is using what kind of data for what purpose.
As a metric, it is a good way of understanding the integrity of information and classifying the scope of access.
This helps in identifying tampering and tracing the possible source of a leak.
5. Alert response time
This metric takes into consideration how much time it takes to fix an issue from its emergence to its solution.
It helps to optimize the workflow and figure out the most effective routines of responding to alerts.
The risk of unmanaged devices is in the lack of control over them. They create uncertainty because you can’t enforce data loss protection policies.
Such devices are data endpoints (employee workstations or smartphones), cloud storage, and removable storage (USB sticks et al.) – basically any departure point for information.
The goal of this metric is to monitor the number, type, and storage size of devices outside the company’s system infrastructure.
Just like the DLP security policy exceptions, this figure must be kept at a minimum in order to avoid incidents of the breach.
In this day and age, the implementation of a Data Loss Prevention solution is a necessary step in keeping your company’s data safe and under complete control. In addition, there are numerous benefits of data protection controls that got your business.
With the dangers of data loss and breaches growing, a fine-tuned data loss prevention policy is one of the foolproof mechanisms that help you to avoid sustaining financial and reputational damages from intentional malicious threats, system malfunctions, and unintentional human errors. Thus, you need to adopt data loss prevention best practices from this article.
The use of open-source software is a common way of web/mobile application development that benefits both the companies and the broader development community. It is one of the driving forces of technological progress. However, the openness it provides also brings its own set of challenges you need to be aware of.
In this article, we will explain the significant challenges of applying open-source software and the ways of avoiding them.
What are open-source security risks?
Exploits in software applications are a natural occurrence both in open source and proprietary products. These exploits present possibilities for a hacker to shake things a little and compromise the security of the system.
These things can range from mistakes and oversights in the code to full-blown backdoors used to monitor and test applications (NSA loves that stuff).
While proprietary products are relatively safe and under wraps, open-source software is under threat.
You might think, “if things are so rough – then why bother using open source software at all?”. Here’s why.
In one way or another, software development revolves around open source products. Some companies don’t even understand how many different open-source tools constitute their products.
The list includes:
Code libraries (NLTK)
Operating systems (Linux)
Various software applications for different use cases (performance testing tools, DLP, development frameworks, etc.)
According to a study by Synopsys, up to 96% of commercial software applications contain elements from open source in their structure.
Why is it so? There are three reasons:
Cost-effectiveness – there is no point in reinventing the wheel when it comes to software development. Making your own tools for a project can take a significant chunk of time. There many different libraries and tools available in open-source that can handle the majority of development needs.
Flexibility – the variety of open-source tools provide enough room to figure out the best possible configuration for the project.
Speed – working with already existing tools saves time for mastering the tools and testing the possibilities, and instead, lets the team focus on the development process entirely.
The most common results of taking advantage of exploits are security threats like Data breaches and Denial of Service attacks.
Data breach – when sensitive information is accessible to an unauthorized third party
DoS – when the service is shut down, overloaded or otherwise impossible to use correctly.
Open Source Security Risks to Be Aware Of
Exploits are out in the open
One of the prerequisite features of an open-source project is that its code is available to the public. The availability of the code is one of the major driving forces for the rapid evolution of an open-source project. Any member of the community can contribute in some way, including identifying emerging vulnerabilities before others can exploit them maliciously. Hackers can do that. Given the fact that open-source tools may serve as a backbone for the product – this nuance creates a significant concern.
The handling of the open-source security risks is more or less a question of time. Either you get there first, and update the code, or this will be a cybercriminal who will gladly mess with the system.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) that keeps the developer’s community on the same page regarding the state of security in various applications. The database includes all reported exploits found across multiple software applications. As such, it is a community’s way of keeping threats under control. NVD is an excellent source of information.
It is important to note that among the people who like to surf it is hackers. They tend to take note of the exploits, especially those that are yet to be fixed by the project development.
The most prominent example of taking advantage of an open-source exploit is the 2017 Equifax hack. The hackers found out that the system was using a version of the Apache Struts framework with several reported and unfixed exploits. This discovery led to one of the most significant reported data breaches.
Possible infringement risks
The thing with open-source as a concept is that:
it is a contribution to the community first;
the product second.
Because of its free-for-all status, open-source does not operate under standard commercial regulations.
This vagueness creates an underlying issue as open-source tools may contain elements of the proprietary code, i.e., somebody else’s intellectual property.
On its own, this is not an issue in the open-source product itself. It becomes an issue when the open-source applications, with the unregulated segments of the proprietary code, are used in the development of the commercial product
One of the most prominent recent infringement cases is IBM v. SCO Group. Here’s what happened: in 2001, IBM had released an operating system called “Project Monterey.” It contained elements of UNIX System V code owned by SCO Group under a standard license agreement. At the same time, IBM had contributed sections of the Project Monterey with elements of UNIX System V code to the Linux kernel.
This led to a long-running lawsuit from the SCO Group. The company claims that the alleged presence of the proprietary code in the open-source was a case of misappropriation of trade secrets that:
devalued their product;
caused unfair competition;
ultimately led to the company’s bankruptcy.
As a result, they sought billions in compensation.
That’s an extreme case, but it is a good illustration of possible consequences. How to avoid this kind of situation?
Proper due diligence of the open-source tools is the best way of keeping things under control.
Supply chain component analytical tools like DependencyTrack can automate the majority of the routine and let you react swiftly to any possible problems.
The other issue that emerges from a lack of commercial regulations of the open-source software is the license conundrum.
Here’s why. The development of proprietary software often involves numerous open-source elements – libraries, frameworks, tools, etc. These elements are released under different license types (for example, Apache license for data processing frameworks) with distinct compliance requirements.
As a result, the proprietary application gets entangled in the net of different licenses, all of which need full compliance. Non-compliance puts the company at risk of legal action, which is damaging for reputation and financial resources.
CoKinetic claims that Panasonic had intentionally ignored the General Public License to hold back the competition.
The thing is – Panasonic in-flight hardware uses a Linux-based operating system, which adheres to GNU General Public License.
One of the requirements of this license says if the GPL-licensed tool is used to develop a piece of software, this application requires a release in open-source under the same license.
Panasonic hadn’t done that, and from the perspective of CoKinetic, it blocked the competition and monopolized the market.
The lawsuit is nowhere near protecting community standards. In reality, it is messing with the competition, as a kind of attempt to disrupt the workflow and damage the credibility of the company.
How to avoid this issue from happening?
License tracking is a dubious routine that requires transparency and caution.
You need an excellent DevOps engineer to handle it and keep it intact.
The primary tool to keep open-source licenses under control is software composition analysis apps like Blackduck, SourceClear, and WhiteSource.
This combination provides a full view of the software components used in the application and allows you to manage any emerging licensing issues with relative ease.
Operational inefficiency is one of the biggest technical challenges that come with open-source software.
The chain of events is as follows:
you are using a version of a program for some purpose;
someone reports on the new exploit;
the latest update is pending.
the emergence of an exploit creates a security risk, and you need to react swiftly.
Here’s where the challenge comes.
There are higher priorities to take care of when it comes to software development. You need to get the thing working, optimize it all the way through, fix bugs, and handle glitches. Things like open-source software updates, and emerging security risks, usually slip away in the heat of the moment for the sake of more important things.
Provide transparency of the development inventory to keep the team on the same page regarding the state of the toolkit.
Use software composition tools to streamline the management process and implementation of updates.
In case of abandoned or infrequently updated open-source tools (which happens all the time), the developers need to fix the issue on their own.
Faulty code copy-pasting
The development process consists of routine operations. Code copy-pasting is one of them. While it is a standard operation on its own, it is what is copied and pasted that can create a significant security threat.
The thing – developers often copy-paste the code directly from open-source libraries. As was previously mentioned, there is a chance of having an exploit inside a copied code. That is one part of the problem.
The other part of the problem is that once the code snippet is in the codebase – it is a part of an application. It is hard to update that particular snippet, and remove the exploit after the fact, without disrupting the workflow. In other words, it is like shooting yourself in the foot.
The solution to this problem is simple.
You need to forbid any direct copy-pasting from open-source repositories and insist on mandatory code reviews before implementation.
These are all of the significant open source security challenges you need to be aware of to avoid getting into trouble.
These days the issue of transparency and trust between the company and the user is at its peak. If the company wants to establish their product as trustworthy in the eyes of the user – the use of open source security is one of the surefire ways of showing that.
On the other hand, going open source paves the way for the further evolution of the product – the refinement of existing features, fixes of flaws, and addition of new elements.
So you have a brilliant business idea for an app. You finally decide to get out there and make it happen for yourself. Your first dilemma would be “should I find app developers near me or it is better to outsource them?” Before choosing the “app development companies near me” option, consider that in the modern tech environment, you can easily outsource talented developers at a reasonable rate.
In this article, you will find out the reasons to hire local vs. outsource developers. We share tips on where to find the best candidate for an application together with a useful guide on how to choose the developers for your future project.
Local vs. Outsource App Developers
It is a common myth that local developers are more experienced, reasonably priced, and always perform at their best than outsource developers. Let us compare the advantages of working with domestic and offshore developers.
Advantages of Local Developers
The main benefit of working with local developers is communication. It is more convenient to work with a team from the same time zone, speak the same language, and which you can meet in person.
Boosting the local economy
By hiring local developers, you invest in the local economy. This way, your business has a positive impact on your surroundings.
When making research for hiring local developers, you are not limited to photos, reports, and Skype interviews. You can meet the team in person or send your company representative.
Another advantage of a local development team is that they have insights into the needs and wants of local customers toward the functionality and the design.
Unless you want to hire a mobile app development company in the USA, Australia, or Western Europe, consider that developers will charge from $100 to 350 per hour. In comparison, outsourcing application development to specialists from Eastern Europe is more profitable, with an average rate of $50 per hour.
Access to the global talent pool
Another reason to work with foreign developers is a large variety of specialists with expertise in different frameworks. For your future project, you can find a developer with experience in healthcare, e-commerce, banking, chatbots, artificial intelligence, big data, and so on.
Outsource teams are easily scalable. So, if your project requires more developers to join the team, foreign outsourcing agencies would quickly find necessary specialists, which might not affect the development process.
Help with the current project
Unlike local companies, who prefer developing the project from scratch, outsource developers can help you with an ongoing project. Consider this option in case you do not need the necessary specialists in your team or have a tight timeline.
Our clients hire us to develop their application because their friends or colleagues have a positive experience having such cooperation. So when searching for your future development team, you can ask for some recommendations from colleagues on Facebook.
This social network includes numerous developers with different levels of expertise. You can use on-site search and filters to find the developer for your future app.
But the best way to find the development company is to search via directories as Clutch, GoodFirms, or Businessofapps. On these websites, you can learn more about:
The company location and structure
The company’s development expertise
See their portfolio
And even read reviews of their previous customers
When looking for mobile application programmers via Clutch, you can search only for “mobile app development companies near me”. Also, you can filter the search results by demographics, views, the number of reviews, developer rate, industry focus, client focus, the number of employees, etc.
Upwork is a website where you can hire freelance developers and designers to build your app. But this will work only in case you need someone to improve your app. While hiring a freelance developer on the initial stage of your project might be not effective.
Now, when you know where you will search for your future development team, it is time to learn more about the types of development outsourcing and the choice that will fit your needs the best.
When choosing the web development team, you need to select among nearshore, onshore, and offshore business streams. Let us look at them in more detail.
Onshore means that you are working with the development team located in your country. When you want to work with local developers only, this is your option. While there would not be any language and cultural barriers, onshore development companies remain the priciest option in this list.
Nearshore is the midpoint between the onshore and offshore development. Such companies work with clients from the countries, located nearby. In this case, they are located in a similar time zone, speak the same language, and do not have any cultural barrier.
Such companies work only with foreign clients. Offshore is the most cost-effective option since most clients work with international companies, primarily from Eastern Europe, which are known for their reasonable price and high quality. That said, unless not chosen carefully, the development team could struggle to meet quality standards during the project fulfillment.
In case you are ready to hire someone from a foreign country to build your application, please continue reading. Below we share the most useful tips on how to choose the app development company and not to fail.
The Step-by-Step Guide on How to Find an App Developer
Follow these steps to find the right development agency and turn your million-dollar idea into a fully realized mobile application.
Know Your Goals
Before hiring the development company, first and foremost, you need to decide what type of project do you need.
Make the project description, its industry, the feature list, and clearly outline your idea.
Next, you need to decide whether you want to launch your project as an MVP (a minimum viable product) or as a fully-fledged and marketable product.
Another thing to consider is the platform. Do you want to develop an application for iOS, Android, or even a Web App?
Last but not least is to prepare a list of criteria for choosing the potential development company, the team composition, and roles of team members.
Establish Industry Expertise
Before asking the development company for a quote, explore their portfolio on their website as well as their profiles on Behance, or Dribble websites to find out more about their previous works. Remember that the expertise of your future team should be relevant to your next project.
Besides, take into account that the number of previous projects is equally important as their quality. All apps, developed by this company, should have a modern design and convenient user interface. Mobile development requires not only experience but also creativity and a deep understanding of the target audience.
When looking for an application developer, you need to know what type of application you want to build. Currently, there are three most popular types of applications, described below.
You can create a native application for a specific device and its operating system. To develop a native application on Android, the developer will use Java. To create a native application for iOS, the developer will use Objective C and Swift. Using the language of a particular platform, the developer can make better use of the native device features.
The main feature of web applications is that they are compatible with multiple platforms. It means that such an application will work well with both iOS and Android. For cross-platform applications, development companies apply React, Angular, and Vue js, standard web technologies independent from the device operating system.
When you select the type of your future application and know its programming language, ask your team whether they have previous experience in similar projects.
Now, when you know, whether you need developers for native, web, or hybrid app, let us move further. Below you will find out other aspects you need to consider to find your future development team.
Clear communication is essential for working successfully with the outsource team, located in different time zones. Since issues in communicating ideas and feedback may slow down the project development, increase production cost, and cause a delay in the launch.
When looking for the development team, ask about their level of communication, in particular, how often do they communicate with clients and what methods of communication do they use.
Also, ask them about their project management tools. Since a good development company will update you at every stage of the project to make sure that you are on the same page, and the development process meets your expectations.
During the hiring process, pay attention to how often do they reply to your emails and Skype calls, which is a good indicator of how they will perform during the development stage. If the team members are not proactive, you might look for another team.
Ask for Client References
If you doubt whether the development team is good enough, communicate with their previous client for a recommendation. It would be great to talk to the client who hired the team for the development of a similar app.
When connecting with their clients via phone or Skype, ask them about their experience with this team, their advantages, and disadvantages.
Also, ask if the client is satisfied with the end product, did the team failed the deadlines, how good are their communication skills, etc.
Certificates and IT Infrastructure
Ask the development team, whether they have certificates that prove their experience in application development. Consider the year when their licenses and certificates were issued since it reflects their current expertise.
The size of the team also can tell a lot about your future team. The company that has many employees belong to the industry leaders and have many clients. In case the company counts 5-10 developers, it does not mean they would perform lousy results. Still, do not expect outstanding design and development from such teams.
Price is an essential part of any development project. When discussing the budget for the project, take into consideration that the main goal is to develop the application that will bring value to your business. Still, the project price should adequately reflect the quality, time to delivery, and scope.
Also, ask the development team about additional costs you need to take into account as maintenance or marketing.
Usually, the development team came up with the estimated cost that includes the development part, the design, QA, and testing.
For preliminary project costs calculations, you may use this page.
The last but not the least factor to consider when choosing the development team is a quality assurance of the ready application and its further maintenance. Because after releasing to the marketplace, the application will require additional support, timely updates, fixing bugs of new features and functionality.
To make your application work properly after the launch, you need to understand the dev team policy for further maintenance and technical support. You can offer your team to work on ongoing support, paying an hourly rate or a monthly fee.
When it comes to modern technologies, the option “to hire mobile app developers near me” is not the best option. When you want to develop an application and hire only local developers, you limit your choice by local expertise. Besides, in some countries, local developers have a very high hourly rate. You need to think bigger.
Many talented developers outsource their resources while charging less than your local developers do.
Still, to work with outsource developers effectively, you need to have a clear vision of your future application, its goal, and the platform.
By following our guide, you surely will find an experienced developer for hire.
Data security and privacy are getting a much-needed spotlight right now, as they probably should. Given the fact that companies gather a lot of sensitive user data to enable their services, it is fair to say that security must be one of the top priorities.
But judging from the list of recent breaches like:
Data security in the enterprise sector is more of an afterthought than a top priority for many companies.
Since companies are responsible for the safety and confidentiality of the user’s data and held accountable for everything that happens with it, it’s better to be in the know on this topic.
In this article, we will explain why maintaining data security and privacy is more important than ever.
Why data security and privacy is more important than ever?
Data Security and Privacy are two foundational elements of building trust between the company and the user. Proper data security can be considered a significant differentiating factor for many consumers, in light of breaches and violations.
What is usually at risk?
Personally identifiable information (addresses, phone numbers, passport data),
Personal health information and medical records,
Payment card and banking information,
Social Security numbers, insurance information.
These are the types of information that require privacy and high-security standards.
According to an IBM cybersecurity study, 75% of customers won’t even consider buying a product if they have doubts that the company will keep their personal data safe and private.
This is reasonable behavior since the consequences of careless database maintenance (Equifax) go far beyond ominous finger-wagging, into $1,4 billion in losses, coupled with the loss of customer trust. Or let’s remember that time when Facebook stored user passwords in plaintext. That wasn’t very nice. And these are just a few of the many examples.
But these things don’t come out of anywhere. A breach, or any other security or privacy compromise, is simply the boiling point of a situation that was building up for some time.
There are several reasons why data security has become an issue.
It is a well-known fact that for the last couple of years we’ve produced more data than for the previous millennia. It is growing at an exponential rate, and it will keep growing.
One of the reasons for this is due to the never-ending, and often winding quest, for gaining more insights into the market situation or the target audience than the competition. This process includes storing user data, including personal information, and also such things as behavioral data and all sorts of activity logs. This is a lot of data. Facebook alone has around 2,5 billion accounts, and who knows how much data one user produces throughout a single session from an analytical point of view.
Data growth is a big challenge. Keeping up with it, whilst keeping it all together, is extremely hard. Companies need to maintain the entire infrastructure and keep it scalable, while data sources keep expanding, and the scope of the data follows suit exponentially due to various forecasting and predictions. And you need to keep all this data to understand the big picture and identify future opportunities.
This factor slowly but surely turns data infrastructure into an absolute mess. And because of this, data security suffers. Security practices and tools become obsolete, blind spots occur, negligence happens, and voila – “you’ve got a breach.”
Growing operational complexity
The other side of constant data growth is the increasing complexity of the data processing operation. There are way too many moving parts to keep an eye on.
Due to the enormous scope of the data processing operation, and multiple moving parts involved, the process oversight often becomes lax, and compliance with security standards often becomes obsolete or even worse – completely non-existent. The standard rule is “if it isn’t broken, it doesn’t need fixing” And so it goes.
The reason why Facebook kept user passwords in plaintext is an excellent example of this mindset. Little issues pile up here and there and when the part breaks there is no place to go.
The factors for growing operational complexity are as follows:
Transition to cloud computing and storages;
Use of big data applications and databases;
Disparate tools from multiple vendors that process sensitive data.
While the first two factors are under relative control due to being inside the organization, the plot thickens when it comes to applications from outside vendors.
What if one of those tools is compromised? Like that time when Paypal had a data breach.
What if a third-party vendor is using your business data for its own purposes? Like Amazon, which uses vendor data in addition to customer data to perfect their service.
However, these serious concerns are often ignored in favor of getting more results, faster. Guess what happens next?
New privacy regulations (GDPR, CCPA, et al)
2018 was a landmark year in terms of data security regulations. After years of hesitation and stalling (for example, the last time the EU upgraded their data security legislation was in 1995, which is prehistory), the legislation finally caught up with technological progress, and now companies have to take responsibility to user’s personal data, privacy, and security.
In May of that year, the European Union adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (you can read more about it right here);
Later in June, the State of California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).
Both GDPR and CCPA provide ground rules regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable with personal data and also clarifies what happens with those who want to play fast and loose with someone else’s sensitive data. They also describe a course of action in the event of a data breach or other security compromises.
One of the most significant innovations of this legislation is the Data Protection Officer, a person whose entire purpose is to keep an eye on the security and privacy practices within the company and impose high-security standards throughout the organization.
The other significant innovation of GDPR is fines and penalties for violating the compliance guidelines. For example, non-compliance with GDPR, in some cases, may result in a €20 million or 4% of global turnover, fine, which is no laughing matter.
Whether we want it or not, we live under the constant threat of data breaches. Every week there is a news piece about some big company having a security issue that resulted in a massive amount of user’s personal data being exposed and sold on the black market. Reputations are blemished, trust is nil, and money lost.
It is essential to understand the reason why these things are allowed to happen and realize how much is at stake when it comes to personal data and other sensitive information.
Let’s face it. The event industry has been strongly affected by the global pandemic COVID-19. As a result, thousands of events have been canceled or postponed.
But there is a bright side. Some organizations successfully adopted online event platforms.
The first conference streamed online on a virtual event platform was Google Cloud Next ’20, who’s example inspired Oracle, Adobe, and Cisco to organize a digital-first conference.
Soon, even big cross-industry conferences, including Collision and SaaS Global Forum, adopted live streaming events.
Live streaming is the only possible way to arrange an event while upholding participants’ safety and health. Virtual events platforms also help event organizers to meet financial obligations and minimize losses caused by the global pandemic.
What does it mean?
Live streaming has become the must-have feature for all event applications, either Web or mobile.
But what If your event app doesn’t have this feature?
Beware that users will sooner or later go to software providers who offer live streams. In another scenario, you power up the app with live streaming and remain protected from losing users and profit.
Despite the scenario you chose, we are here to inform you about an updated feature list for a virtual events management platform, and technologies to integrate them.
Virtual events are the new normal: what has changed?
The adoption of live streaming technologies is changing the events industry from the inside. And here’s how:
When everything, from the number of tickets sold to email marketing reports, is located in a virtual events platform, you need an effort to organize, promote, and run an event. The virtual events platform also allows visitors to access the recorded stream at any time and discuss it with other participants in live chat. Thus, such platforms have the potential to extend an event’s shelf life.
New business model
Organizing conferences or trade shows on a virtual event platform is more affordable, compared to offline events. You no longer need to pay for boosts, renting stages, and expensive equipment. Thus, event organizers should apply different business models to video streams and invest more in marketing campaigns to enhance a wider audience.
By the time offline events are a safe place to visit, organizers will apply hybrid events, hold a live event and offer live-streaming capabilities to extend their reach and enhance a wider audience.
Live streaming technologies are changing, not only the event industry but also user demand. Now, immersive event experience, networking opportunities, and integrations with sales and marketing tools are on top of the requirements for an event management platform. And there are software providers who meet the demand.
The functionality of the best online event platform providers
The market for meeting applications is relatively new. However, there are already strong players you are about to compete with, targeted at different event types. So, let’s look at your competitors in more detail.
Trade show platforms
Some virtual conference platform providers try to replicate the in-person event experience of attending big conferences and trade shows. For this purpose, virtual event platforms offer digital exhibition halls, chatrooms, sponsor boosts, and even breakout rooms.
The video below demonstrates the capabilities of 6Connect, the platform for live streaming conferences.
Other event platform providers are betting on attendee engagement via instant messages, pools, and social sharing. One example is Hopin, a virtual conference software, launched on Jun 5, 2019.
During the global lockdown, Hopin hosted 28,248 events, compared to 1070 events in January 2020.
Apart from messaging and social sharing functionality, that platform has handy tools for organizers. With Hopin virtual event software, you can create a virtual conference in several minutes, customize the design branding, sell tickets, and view analytics.
Video call applications
These types of virtual events software providers are targeted at small digital events-workshops, business meetings, group discussions, etc. Thus, they don’t include marketing or sales tools, and payment gateway. Applications like Zoom and Vimeo have basic functionality for video calls – live streaming, event scheduling in built-in Google Calendar, sharing screens, and recording meetings.
As you see, virtual event software providers include far more features than just video streaming. Now, it is time to consider a feature list for your events management platform.
After analyzing existing online events software, we have gathered the most demanding features in the following list:
Attendee profile. Before participating in online events, users should register to the event management platform using email and a password, or via social login via Facebook or Linkedin. Then, they receive access to a personal profile and fill in their personal information.
Event registration. Organizers can create public or invite-only online events, write a description, start and finish date and time, and create a schedule.
Speaker booths. Add this feature if you are willing to develop an event streaming platform for global events with multiple speakers. Every speaker creates a profile, adds and edits their personal information.
Event page. Here, visitors can find online events description, date and time, a progress bar with time left, hosts information with links to their social media profiles, the number of registered attendees, and a register button.
Payment gateway. Attendees can pay for events via credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, and organizers receive money to their bank accounts.
Live chat. Participants can ask the speaker questions and communicate via a built-in life chat.
1:1 conversations. Apart from group chats, visitors and speakers can chat via private chat rooms.
Recording. This is a handy feature to increase attendee engagement. The event management platform automatically records streamed videos, creates a link to recorded video sessions, and sends it to attendees.
Social sharing. Users can share events, speakers, and schedule them via Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.
Integrations. By integrating email marketing (Mailchimp) and sales tools (Salesforce), you will add value to organizers. With such integrations, organizers run ads, track their performance, and measure results without leaving your platform.
Reporting and metrics. In this section, organizers can access information about the number of registered users, the total amount of tickets sold, and other reports.
Video streaming. The virtual event software connects to a speaker’s camera and microphone and streams video and audio files to attendees.
Live streaming is the core functionality for all virtual event software. But it isn’t easy to build. The quality of streaming videos could drop if too many people join the stream.
Virtual event software requires significant computing power to keep video quality high. It also needs resources to receive, encode, and send videos from one source to numerous viewers. Let’s see what technologies enable high-quality video streaming.
Video streaming tech stack for virtual event software
All of the technologies we have listed below will power the virtual event app’s backend. The backend is the part of the application users can see or access. Now, before we dig deeper into the details, let’s clarify how video streaming works.
All streaming videos go through the following steps:
Step 1. Capture. The camera captures visual information or raw video data.
Step 2. Segmentation. Videos consist of a lot of digital information and take a long time to send through the Internet. Thus, streaming videos are divided into smaller, 2-3 second parts.
Step 3. Compression and encoding. Compression removes redundant video information that does not change from one short video fragment to another. Encoding means changing the video format of streamed data to standard video formats (H.264, VP9, AV1, HEVC)
Step 4. CDN distribution and caсheing. Streaming from an original server, located in a particular geographical location, may cause delays and increase the server’s workload. To avoid delays in the video, you need a CDN( Content Delivery Network) of servers that cache and serve the content instead of an original server. CDN eliminates streaming from an original server and makes live streams available for numerous users from different locations with minimal latency.
Step 5. Decoding and playback. User’s devices receive streaming data sent by CDN, encode, and decompress video data. Then, a video player within the browser interprets fragmented video segments, and the video plays.
Now, the question arises. How to put all these processes into the online events platform?
You will need WebRTC.
WebRTC is an open-source streaming protocol. Open source means the project’s code is available to anyone at no cost. WebRTC allows real-time audio and video data streaming in Web and native app applications leveraging two-way communications channels.
But, WebRTC wouldn’t be enough to empower event software with video streaming.
The virtual event platform also requires the following components:
CDN. As we said, CDN ensures high-quality video streams. For a content distributed network, we suggest Google CDN. This integration uses HTTP(S) Load Balancing as the origin of cacheable content and delivers a mix of static and dynamically-created content through one global I.P. address.
Cloud service. This part of the backend’s architecture will perform as an original server that will send compressed video parts to CDN. The cloud will also host other app architecture components. The best choice here is the Google Cloud Platform.
Database. Before sending compressed video data to end-users, WebRTC will send it to the app’s database, located on the cloud. We suggest Mongo B.D. as the database of choice.
Now that you know what the backend needs for video streaming, in theory. But your virtual event platform may require other technologies to apply. To ensure the tech stack is tailored to your app’s needs, receive a free consultation from the event mobile app developer.
Virtual event software development: The APP Solution experience
As event app developers, we are working on Meet The Table, the platform for arranging business events.
Meet The Table will help business people from South Korea to find U.S. business partners, and locals from New York, who will help Koreans with language, laws, and cultural differences.
[Meet The Tabledesign prototype]
Meet The Table users can arrange virtual business events with videoconferencing. Users can communicate in live chat with an online translation. The app translates Korean to English and English to Korean in real-time.
[The real-time translation of messages, The APP Solutions prototype]
We also developed Instance, the event management mobile app. Users can explore new events nearby, search for an event by category, and invite friends to join. The app also includes event management features, instant messaging, and geolocation functionality.
As a result of the global pandemic, closed borders, and social distancing measures, all events moved from offline to online. An event management platform with live streaming is the optimal way of hosting events of any type – from small workshops to cross-industry trade shows.
In the future, event organizers will likely apply hybrid events leveraging both in-person and digital components. Key speakers will gather in one physical location with a limited number of attendees, while others will watch a live stream at home. Thus, the demand for virtual event platforms will remain high for several years.
How do you find a suitable compromise for a mobile app’s necessary expenses? What are those expenses? What features you can forego in the first iteration without affecting functionality? Let’s talk about that. Mobile app development has many different variables and its price can range from $30,000 to $500,000. It’s hard to estimate app development cost for Android or iOS. We are here to help you with a mobile app estimation of essential expenses for your mobile app development.
The APP Solutions Mobile Development Process
So, how to estimate app development costs?
Let’s go through the step-by-step development process to make clear what amount of money is needed.
We develop applications according to Agile methodology. A system development life cycle is composed of defined work phases. We use them to plan, design, build, test, and deliver the final product to the client.
The best projects start with detailed preparation.
Our fundamental approach ensures the product is going to meet the client’s needs. Thorough planning helps to understand where you are now and how to get to the desired point.
Meticulous market research helps to understand if there is any demand for your idea.
We also research competitors and carry-out SWOT-analysis in identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
Step 2. Technical Specifications
Detailed functional requirements help us to define the idea for your software solution. Also, all project features are determined in this document.
During this stage, you need to decide what kind of operating systems and devices you want in order to build an app.
Step 3. Prototyping & Design
A prototype is a rudimentary working model of a product. Such a model helps you to test the viability of the idea or startup and save a decent amount of time and budget.
This step includes the following processes:
Creating a sketch (A draft version of an app that shows the number of screens and logic through which they interact with each other.)
Creating wireframes (The visualization of the draft app structure.)
Creating a clickable prototype (helps to find issues and solve them before coding. Shows where the interaction logic breaks and gives an understanding of how to improve it.)
Designing app skins
During this stage, we collect all the wireframes and put them together to improve the design.
Step 4. Development
The app development process itself is divided into two parts: front-end and back-end. On average, it takes about ten weeks to build the back-end part of a native app (Android or iOS).
Front-end development of the app with basic functionality may take about eight weeks. However, it’s not always necessary to build the back-end part of the app if you use cloud technologies for storage.
Step 5. Testing/Quality Assurance
It is essential to test every part of the product manually and automatically at every stage of development. As a rule, it should be a separate department dedicated to quality assurance.
The testing/quality assurance stage includes requirements, compatibility, interface, security, and so on.
Besides checking the app or web project for bugs, QA engineers also make sure the UX of the app is up to par, and users will understand how it works.
Step 6. Publishing & Maintenance
Finally, your app is ready and it’s time for it to say, “Hello world!” You can submit the app to app stores by yourself or ask your app development company to assist you.
Also, the work on an app doesn’t end even after its release. Every app needs updates and customer support. Note, that post-release maintenance isn’t included in the initial cost of mobile app estimates.
Generally, several main factors influence mobile app development cost estimate.
Labor Costs – important mobile app development estimation factors
The size of your team influences the number of zeros in your final bill.
Essential team for a mobile app includes:
A project manager who communicates with the client and delivers requirements to the developers.
UI/UX designer, a person on which depends on the app structure and visual appearance.
Mobile developer. To develop the app, you will need one developer per platform (iOS or Android).
Quality Assurance (QA) engineer monitors every phase of the software development process. QA managers make sure that new products are bug-free.
Back-end developer creates the app back-end infrastructure and API integrations.
Number of Platforms and Devices
The main factor that drives the final estimate app cost is the complexity of your project.
Apple iOS is a better choice when you intend to reach more solvent users. An iOS app should support the latest and previous versions of iPhone and iOS versions as well.
The Android platform has a broader penetration among middle-income users. The world of Android devices is much more manifold.
A hybrid app will help you to reach as many users as possible since it works on both iOS and Android. The more devices you choose, the more time the team needs to adapt the app for various screen sizes.
According to our experience, Android development takes 20% longer than iOS development. Why? Because Android powers a wide range of different devices with different screen dimensions. At the same time, iOS powers only Apple devices and follows the same build for all apps.
App features estimation
There are a lot of different features you can add to your app. Their number and type affect the technical complexity of the project.
The most common are:
Third-party integrations. Third-party libraries, frameworks, and services make the app perform faster. Besides, to use a ready-made solution is cheaper than developing a custom solution.
In-app purchases let you sell items from the app. In-app purchases usually add technical complexity to a project.
Admin panel development. This tool makes in-app operations easier. You can manage users and content, view analytics, statistics, and more. Also, in the case of having a content-driven website, the admin panel is usually the place where you add content.
Custom designs. The app design matters as much as the functionality of the app, and sometimes even more. But you should note that a customized user interface comes at a cost.
What are global mobile developers’ rates?
Consider that you can receive an excellent result even from low-priced developers and that a high developer hourly rate does not guarantee a high-quality outcome.
Developer location is one of the essential factors that influence pricing.
Developers from Canada and the US charge from $50 to $250 per hour
Australian mobile app developers hourly rates vary from $50 to $150
UK-based and Western European agencies offer their services from $35 to $170 per hour
Eastern European mobile developers charge from $30 to $150 per hour
With this in mind, let us continue.
Basic needs of every app
The estimated cost of launching an app depends on the number of hours the project will take. In other words, the more functions you need, the more time the development stage will take.
Let us give you an example.
Below, we have divided applications into three categories:
Simple apps include essential functions without third-party API integration and back-end development. Apps with basic functionality may usually consist of:
Standard UI components
The estimated cost of a simple mobile app varies from $30,000 to 50,000 according to the APP Solutions rates.
Our example is the RecruitPitch app, a free pre-interview tool for recruiters. With this app, HR managers set and check tasks for candidates using audio.
Medium complexity apps
Apps in this category include the integration of a third-party solution. For instance, for providing an app with payment features or real-time chats. Medium complexity apps may consist of:
Customized UI features
Integration with APIs
Simple hosting server
According to the APP Solutions rates, this would be estimated from $50K to $70K.
One example is All Square, a social media platform for golfers. To learn more, read the case study.
Complex applications include advanced functionality such as:
Real-time data synchronization
Custom design and animation
Third-party services integration
and as many more features as you wish.
The estimated average cost of app development of complex applications starts at $70,000.
An example is our project Spotnews, an advanced streaming platform integrated with Spotify API. See the full case study on the link.
The APP Solutions Rates and Costs
As already explained, many factors can drive the quotes of a potential project. To cut to the chase, to estimate the expense for your app, you should understand the following.
The project complexity influences the size of the development team. The team’s composition has a direct impact on the time required to develop the project, the number of spent hours forms the final cost.
At the APP Solutions, we provide clients with a transparent and clear process of cost estimation. We also have developed an App Development Cost Calculator, which you can use before ordering app development services.
We offer the best price-quality ratio. Сheck out our rates and portfolio to compare.
The creation of an MVP or minimum viable product is a way how to save you money and time in the initial stages of your project. It is a version of your future product with initial functionality and fewer features. MVP helps make the process faster and identify possible problems. Also, MVP allows you to prove your theories or change some of the app’s functions (even product strategy.)
Below is an example of an MVP Agile model:
Estimation process: Common pitfalls to be aware of
Below you can find the most common pitfalls that may result in an inaccurate app estimation and an increase in app development costs.
Uncertainty and changes. While small changes might be acceptable, significant changes increase the estimation cost, because to make certain changes developers need to rewrite a large piece of code.
Forgotten features. During the app requirements clarification, some must-have features might have been overlooked. These include the “Contact us” button, FAQ section, and other features that you consider distinct. However, if you forgot to add these to the technical documentation, the developers didn’t estimate them. Therefore, be aware of your required features when creating the app documentation and requirements.
Lack of information. We, as well as most app development companies, write an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) with our clients. However, in some cases, clients give very little information about the proposed project, which makes it impossible to estimate. To avoid such a situation with your app development team, provide them with as many details on the app as possible.
In a Nutshell
Nowadays, app development mobile app expenses may vary from $1,000 to $100,000. The cost of app development depends on the app’s complexity, number of integrations, team location, and the number of platforms.
To receive a precise estimation, you need to tell your development team about all of the proposed app’s functions and business goals. Only then can the team provide you with precise app development costs.
We hope that this article has given a clear idea of how to estimate mobile app development for your future app.